Now’s best time to prune trees

Q. When should I prune my fruit trees?

Della from Youngstown

A. Now! The best time to prune fruit trees is during the dormant season. That’s usually February through April here in the Mahoning Valley. During this time of year, wounds heal more quickly. You can get “free” directions from the tree because buds are swollen, telling you where to make pruning cuts.

You can prune in the fall, but there is more chance of winter injury in the worst of winters. Summer pruning time should be saved for any cosmetic cuts or getting rid of the water sprouts that may form in trees.

Pruning is probably the most important health management option you have for fruit trees. Pruning them helps increase air flow through the tree and sunlight penetration into the canopy of the tree. This helps leaves dry off faster in the morning when the sun comes up, reducing the wetness that supports fungal growth.

More important than pruning is selecting the right type of apple for the home garden. If the tree is already planted, you don’t have a choice. Just manage what you have and prune it to reduce disease pressure. If you have a choice of picking the cultivar of apple for your home garden, choose a tree that is resistant to apples scab. This is the most challenging disease on apples trees. Choose something like Gold Rush, Enterprise, Crimson Crisp and others (a complete list is in the link below).

If planting a new tree, be sure you are planting in full sun. Full sun in the morning is even more important, as we want those leaves to dry off as quickly as possible in the morning. Assuming you’ve purchased a dormant tree – plant it now, or as soon as you get them. The consistent moisture in early spring helps roots.

To get some hands-on experience in fruit tree pruning, join us April 22 for our annual Fruit Tree Pruning Clinic at White House Fruit Farm. Details are at

For more information to help you this growing season:

Fruit Tree Pruning –

Fruit Tree Planting –

Scab Resistant Apples to Plant –

Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Winter hours for the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic vary. Submit questions to the clinic at 330-533-5538 or drop samples off to the Extension Office in Canfield. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions.

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